Our Glad Participation in God's Good Design
I delight in weddings that are manifestly biblical and Christian in their character. This past Saturday I had the privilege of officiating the marriage of Jeremie and Grace. As a way of instructing and encouraging the whole body, I decided that for this week’s midweek thought I would share the message that I gave at the wedding, along with the charge that I gave to the bride and groom. May all of us be strengthened by God's Word in our marriages, in our families, and in every aspect of life!
OUR GLAD PARTICIPATION IN GOD’S GOOD DESIGN
We are gathered here on the afternoon of July 8, 2023, not to celebrate an individual lifestyle choice, but to celebrate Jeremie and Grace being united in holy marriage according to God’s design. What we celebrate is God’s good design and our glad participation in it.
In the beginning
Marriage is one of the primary keys to understanding the entire Bible. The Bible tells us about the very beginning, when God created the world and everything in it. In the midst of this good world, God made a man out of the dust, planted a garden, and put the man into the garden “to work it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Then God made a woman out of the man, and He brought the woman to the man, and the two were joined together in marriage. Genesis 2:18-25 says,
“Then the LORD God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam there was not found a helper fit for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,
“This at last is bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called Woman,
because she was taken out of Man.”
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed." (Genesis 2:18-25)
When God created the universe, He put a married couple on center stage in the garden of Eden. Human life and human flourishing were meant to advance through marriage, through collaboration and diligent work, through bearing and bringing up children, through family life and through the subsequent marriages that would follow in future generations. Under God, godly marriage is the foundation and starting point of healthy human community. Jeremie and Grace, as you do marriage and life God’s way, be assured that God will bring about a world of good through you.
The new heaven and new earth
The Bible doesn’t only tell us about the very beginning. The Bible also tells us about the very end, when God makes all things new. When the first heaven and the first earth pass away, and the new heaven and new earth are made to replace it, there will be another marriage featured on center stage. Revelation 19:6-8 says,
“Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
with fine linen, bright and pure”—
for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.” (Revelation 19:6-8)
Then Revelation 21:1-4 says,
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”” (Revelation 21:1-4)
The Lamb and His bride are featured on center stage in the new creation – not in a small garden like the garden in Eden, but in a garden-city paradise that descends from heaven to earth, the holy and undefiled city of God, in which the banquet table is festive and plentiful. Who is this Lamb and this bride who will be blessed beyond measure for all eternity? The Lamb is God’s Lamb, the lamblike Savior who was slain on the altar of sacrifice. The bride is the people that God has redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and these redeemed ones together constitute the glorious bride that will shine with stunning splendor. Jesus is the groom, the husband, the wonderful Savior-King who holds fast to His people forever. When the former things have passed away and all things have become new, what you will see is the lasting marriage between the Lord and His people.
The Lord came from heaven to win His bride
The Bible doesn’t only tell us about the very beginning, when the first marriage got off the ground. The Bible doesn’t only tell us about the very end, when the everlasting marriage between the Lord and His people is glorified forever. The Bible also tells us about the critical turning point in the middle of history, when the Lord paid a great price to obtain His bride. She was expensive to obtain, not because of how glorious she was, but because of how glorious she wasn’t. The bride, the church – the composite group of individual sinners who would one day be washed, justified, and sanctified through faith in Jesus – was blemished and unclean. She deserved judgment, not grace; banishment, not mercy; exile, not reconciliation. But the Lord, who abounds in mercy, gives the riches of His grace to those who don’t deserve it. The Lord, who is the wellspring of life, came from heaven in order to win His bride and pay her debt through the offering of His own perfect life as a sacrifice for sin. When the bride discovered that though filthy, she had been forgiven; that though unlovely, she had been loved to the uttermost; that though bankrupt, she had been made co-heir with the Son of God; that though afar off, she had been brought near to the Father of mercies; that though engulfed in the worst degradations, she had been beautified and dignified through the gracious and renewing presence of the Holy Spirit – when she discovered these things, a most wonderful joy filled her heart, all the shackles and deceits fell away, and she eagerly and warmly embraced the Lord, who had loved her and given Himself for her. Now she delights to be beautiful and lovely for the King, to honor her Savior always, and to make herself ready for the great wedding feast that shall enrapture the whole world at the dawn of eternity. Ephesians 5:22-33 tells us about the great love that Jesus has for His people, and His people’s response to Him:
“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband." (Ephesians 5:22-33)
Charge to Bride and Groom
Jeremie and Grace, as Christians both of you must always fix your eyes on Jesus, trust Him for all that He is and all that He provides, and cherish and keep His words. And within that overarching Christian responsibility that applies to you both, you each have a specific responsibility to pursue. Therefore, I now charge you in terms of these specific responsibilities.
To the groom
Jeremie, I charge you in the presence of God and these many witnesses, to take Jesus, the perfect husband, as your model for being a faithful husband. Ephesians 5:25 is clear: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church” (italics added). Christ took responsibility for His bride, and He leveraged all of His assets for her good. You must learn to assume the responsibility that God has assigned to you. Assume responsibility for your marriage, for your bride, and for any children that the Lord sees fit to provide through your union with Grace. All that you have, all your strengths, all your resources, all your courage and masculine virtues are given to you for her good. Demonstrate your love for her by making tangible sacrifices for her good – and make these sacrifices cheerfully, with joy in your heart and a smile on your face. Remember that it is a joyous thing to be doing what God made you to do. Let your kindness wash over her in such a way that she is refreshed and strengthened in her soul. Wash her with the Word, and let your love cover a multitude of her weaknesses. Work hard to nourish and provide for her, to protect and cherish her. Hold fast to her, and never let go. As you make it your aim to reflect Jesus’ character to your wife, you must remember that you are not Jesus. Jesus never fails His bride, but there will be times when you will fail your bride. Stay humble, confess your sins, pursue spiritual growth, and be renewed at the cross so that you can stand up in God’s strength and keep doing your best to love your Bride. Precisely because you are not Jesus, you must want nothing more than for Grace to find her ultimate stability in Jesus, not in you. Be wonderfully okay with that, and encourage her to lean on the everlasting arms.
To the bride
Grace, I charge you in the presence of God and these many witnesses, to take the beloved, regenerated, faith-filled, and Spirit-empowered church, the most privileged bride in all the universe, as your model for being a faithful wife. Ephesians 5:24 is clear: “Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands” (italics added). The church – when she is in her right mind – knows how to honor her Lord; the church knows how to submit to and follow her Lord; the church knows how to receive the Lord’s ministry to her; the church knows how to rest in and be transformed by her Lord’s unchanging love; the church knows how to listen to and be shaped by her Lord’s words; the church knows how to use her gifts and strengths in service to her Lord and His mission. In light of these things, let the church’s way of relating to Jesus shape the way that you relate to Jeremie. Treat him with such honor and deference, not because Jeremie deserves it, but because this is the Lord’s design, and the Lord’s design is good. As you pursue this, it will at times be painfully obvious to you that neither you nor Jeremie live up to these high ideals. He will fail you, and you will fail him. That is to be expected. Walk in tender mercy, and be eager to forgive him even as you have been forgiven. You and Jeremie are only a picture – an imperfect picture – of the perfect union between the Lamb and His bride. Always remember the paradox: it is precisely through brokenness and humility, confession and repentance, patience and kindness, longsuffering and mercy, that your marriage will increasingly reflect the mystery of Christ and His beautiful bride. Stay anchored in Jesus, and encourage your husband to find his ultimate delight in the Lord, not in you.
Put the other’s interests ahead of your own
Jeremie, loving Grace and laying down your life for her is how you put her interests ahead of your own and how you find joy in her flourishing. Grace, honoring Jeremie and submitting to his sacrificial leadership is how you put his interests ahead of your own and how you find joy in his flourishing. As you do these things, you will be telling the world the truth about Jesus and the bride that He loves. May all these things be so, for the glory of God, amen.
 Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.